Defense notwithstanding, the Nets are fun to watch again
Through the first four games of the young season, the Brooklyn Nets are 2-2. I know it’s not much to sneeze at, but one can tell from this small sample size that they are a much better team than they were last season.
Losing Jeremy Lin for the season to a ruptured Patella Tendon in the opener was a tough blow to the franchise, but even without him in the lineup they continue to play hard every night for head coach Kenny Atkinson. They could have very well won their third game in a row, but they went cold on Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic and watched a double-digit fourth quarter lead turn into a frustrating 125-121 loss.
Regardless of wins/losses, the Nets are fun to watch again. They’re a young, energetic group who loves to get up and down the floor. They have a potential face of the franchise in D’Angelo Russell, and they surrounded him with shooters and athletic wings such as Caris LeVert, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Through four games, the Nets lead the league in scoring at 123.5 points per game. They are fifth in rebounds at 47.8 per game, and tenth in field goal percentage at 46.6%.
Defensively, they are not faring quite as well. Teams are getting into the paint against them almost at will. Rookie Jarrett Allen has shown flashes in limited minutes, but the Nets are currently lacking an experienced rim protector. They also struggle against mobile centers who can step out and shoot three-pointers. Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Indiana’s Myles Turner have both had their way with Brooklyn’s interior defense. Timofey Mozgov looks a step slow defensively, so Allen’s development will have a direct impact on the team’s defensive improvement.
Their first real litmus test comes on Wednesday night when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers invade Barclays Center. If the Nets can hang tough with the reigning Eastern Conference champions, they will continue to prove to themselves and the rest of the NBA that they should be taken seriously. A new era of Brooklyn Nets basketball has arrived, it is just going to take a while to get to where they want to be.